Heat intolerance is a symptom where a person is unable to tolerate even slight heat or feels like they are overheated with just a moderate rise in temperature. Sensitivity to heat is highly individualized but all humans are able to tolerate he same temperatures to a similar degree. A person suffering with heat intolerance may find the heat unbearable while others do not find it as hot and unbearable. There are several reasons why heat tolerance may occur but many women associate it with menopause.
Hot Flashes and Heat Intolerance
Menopause is one of the causes of heat intolerance, but it is not the only possibility among women. Hot flashes are a sensation of intense warmth or even a burning within the body that comes on suddenly, lasts for a few seconds to minutes, and then gradually resolves. It is one of the common symptoms of menopause.
The feeling is more intense in the upper body particularly over the face, chest and upper back. During a hot flash, a woman may not be able to tolerate even the slightest heat. Hot flashes are not the same as heat intolerance but both can occur due to the same cause – the hormonal changes associated with menopause.
Fever and Heat Intolerance
It is important not to confuse heat intolerance with a fever. When a person has a fever, the temperature control mechanism of the body is altered so that the body temperature can rise. Although the body heat will be recorded as higher than normal, most people who have a fever do not feel the heat. In fact, more often than not they feel cold while others can feel them hot to the touch and a thermometer clearly indicates a rise in body temperature. People with fever usually seek warmth and a heat source, rather than avoiding it like in heat intolerance.
Causes of Heat Intolerance
Apart from menopause, other causes of heat intolerance should be considered. While most of the causes of heat intolerance are not serious in nature, some could be life-threatening.
- Anxiety is one of the common causes of heat intolerance. It is usually short term. A good example of anxiety-related heat intolerance is when a person feels that a room is too hot when they are faced with stressful situation.
- Caffeine is another common trigger that may lead to heat intolerance. It is a stimulant that could raise energy and heat production to a slight extent for short periods of time. The dilation of the skin blood vessels may also contribute to this heat sensation.
- Amphetamines (prescription and illicit), as well as a host of other substances that are stimulants can have a similar effect because it increases the metabolism. Heat is produces as a byproduct. These substances may also affect the temperature control mechanism.
- Thyrotoxicosis is where the thyroid hormone levels in the blood are abnormally high. This can occur due to some diseases or it can occur with the incorrect administration of thyroid hormone medication. If left untreated it can be deadly for various reasons such as the heart abnormalities that it may cause.
Feeling very hot to the point where it is unbearable is not considered to be heat intolerance if the environmental temperature if very high. This sensation is normal and the body’s way of signaling that the heat is excessive and could lead to complications such as heat-related illnesses. Apart from individual sensitivity, people who are overweight or obese may not have the same degree of heat tolerance as people who have a lower body fat content due to the insulating effect of adipose tissue (fat tissue).